The European Union will set up an international medical programme to lead the global response to fighting coronavirus with an initial pledge of raising $8bn (£6.3bn) to find a vaccine and treatment for the pandemic.
The virtual pledging conference next Monday was organised following Donald Trump’s suspension of US contributions to the World Health Organisation after accusing the organisation of colluding with the Chinese government in hiding the initial outbreak of the disease.
Heads of states and senior officials of the European Union, writing in The Independent, have declared their support for the WHO while unveiling the plan to work with scientists and international welfare organisations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, to counter the contagion.
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The EU states will be joined by Norway in filling the immediate global funding shortfall estimated by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB). Vaccines and treatments, say the leaders, will be made available throughout the world to developing nations with an emphasis on states in Africa.
The urgent need for international unity in the crisis, and the warning that no country can go it alone, is stressed in an article in The Independent signed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel; French president Emmanuel Macron; Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte; Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg; European Council President Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
The article says: “We are building on the commitment by G20 leaders to develop a massive and coordinated response to the virus. We are supporting the call to action that the World Health Organisation and other global health actors have made together.
“For this reason, we have launched the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global cooperation platform to accelerate and scale-up research, development, access and equitable distribution of the vaccine and other life-saving therapeutics and diagnostics treatments.
“This laid the foundation for a real international alliance to fight Covid-19. We are determined to work together, with all those who share our commitment to international co-operation. We are ready to lead and support the global response.”
Mr Trump had initially welcomed a G20 meeting hosted in Saudi Arabia aimed at a concerted effort to fight the pandemic. But a lengthy communiqué due to be published at the summit in April was replaced by a short statement after the condemnation of China and the WHO by the US administration.
The President’s halting of American funding of the WHO, the largest contribution to the organisation’s budget, has been criticised by a number of Western states and the secretary-general of the United Nations.
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